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Review: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS has been a long time coming. First announced at E3 in 2011, development didn’t commence until the following year; in the time since, fans have patiently — and somewhat rabidly — waited for its launch date. The title is a milestone for the franchise, being the first time Smash Bros. has appeared on a handheld. While it isn’t without its problems, the fact that Nintendo has been able to reproduce the frenetic gameplay of Super Smash Bros. — I’m dropping the rest of the game’s moniker to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome — on the small screen is a feat unto itself. Not everything in the portable version is a triumph, but this Nintendo performing at the top of its game.

Without a doubt Super Smash Bros.’ strength lies in its variety, and it’s here that the game transforms into something more than a  ‘pick up and play’ fighter. It becomes an engaging and rewarding portable game worthy of the Smash Bros. name.  I’ll always have a soft spot for the original Smash Bros. title on the N64 — it was what I remember playing growing up — and it was a ton of fun with friends too, but it would be remiss if I didn’t discuss how far the franchise has come since then.

Items have always been core to the Super Smash Bros. experience and once again they can completely change the dynamic of the battles. Items make the fighting an ever evolving tug-of-war between skilled players, often times with item usage ending up deciding the winner. Some classic items like Pokéballs, home-run bats, hammers and stars return, but it’s the new additions which really turn things up a notch. Red shells have been replaced with the blue shells from Mario Kart, and hone in on the opponent performing best when unleashed. Beetles from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword can pick up an enemy and carry them out of the screen resulting in a TKO. There are a huge range of new items and many of them can hold their place among the series’ best. From the Namco universe comes a Boss Galaga which can ‘beam up’ opponents and KO them much the same as the Skyward Sword beetle. Most of the new items come from Kid Icarus, but can you really blame Sakurai for wanting to shine the spotlight on his baby?


Smash Balls, which enable each character’s Final Smash, also make a return. Smash Balls have the uncanny ability to immediately and irrevocably alter the flow of a battle. Once one appears, naught else matters as four players frantically scramble to break it open first and unleash fury. Of particular note are Pac-Man, Mega Man and Shulk’s Final Smash. Half the fun is trying to get to the Smash Ball first just so you can see what crazy thing happens next. Better still is watching your opponents scurry like cockroaches once you’ve be successful. Final Smash makes you feel god-like, if only for a few seconds.

The character roster offers an impressive list of fighters to select from which includes a wide range of eras and franchises too. While I initially thought additions like the Villager (Animal Crossing) would offer little substance it proved a decent choice in some matches. Greninja is a stand-out fighter, being both impressively quick and strong with its attacks. As far as the stage variety is concerned, there’s a solid number to choose from, but they all felt somewhat underwhelming – both in terms of design and interactivity. You’re able to change between standard and ‘omega’ stage forms – with the latter just being a flat platform to fight on, à la the “Final Destination” stage. Too many of the levels seem to rely on gimmicks and so they fall out of favour and rotation rather quickly. On the small screen the levels need to be simple and easy to navigate.

Smash Bros. introduces a new gameplay mode known as ‘Smash Run’, exclusively to 3DS. Here you select a character — and it’s recommended that you use one you have customised so you can equip power-ups to use throughout the run — and spend five minutes making your way through a large maze-like stage. Each action you take, whether it be running or attacking enemies, will earn your character points to boost one of six stats. At the end of  five minutes, your stats are compared with three other players who’ve also ran the maze, pitting you against one another in a final battle. These battles can involve free-for-all combat, who can defeat the most number of enemies in a time limit or even a race to the finish. If I’m honest though, for as much as the game talks about this new mode, it’s a little boring and repetitive. The entire point of Super Smash Bros. is to beat your enemies senseless, and needing to run through a maze against an onslaught of random enemies — and believe me, they aren’t easy — just to end up in what will most likely be another brawl seems like a waste of time. Custom matches or playing through the classic or all-star single-player modes were far more enjoyable.


Of course, the best fun to be had with Super Smash Bros. is with friends, and fortunately you can do so both locally or online. Finding matches was quick and effortless, but the game can suffer from pretty bad lag, which is disappointing when precision and good-timing is key. It’s not necessarily a game killer, but just seeing your game react a second or so after you’ve pressed a button is frustrating. If you do have some friends with their own 3DS consoles and a copy of the game, you can set-up some local custom matches. Local four player matches seem to push the 3DS to its limit with slowdown happening every so often, especially on stages with lots going on. It’s not frequent enough to ruin the experience and two and three player matches run flawlessly.

My major issue with Super Smash Bros. — and more with the 3DS  itself — is that each time I play a new game on my handheld, I struggle with its controls. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the button layout of Xbox 360 and One controllers, but it always takes some time to get adjusted to the fact the 3DS’ ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons are never in the position I expect them to be. For the first few hours I found myself struggling with Smash Bros.. I’d  fall off the edge of the stages unnecessarily because I’d be punching the air rather than jumping upwards and mistake the special attack button for the standard attack one far too many times. Eventually I got the hang of it and it was at this point that Super Smash Bros. really started to shine. It is a shame that you aren’t able to replace the button functions and merely only swap them around. For example, while you can switch ‘A’ and ‘B’ around, you can’t also replace one of the two jump buttons ‘X’ and ‘Y’ with another attack one. Why you would need to face buttons for jumping along with being able to use the control stick is beyond me.

Overall, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS makes for a great addition to any 3DS owner’s library. Teething issues with the controls aside, it’s very much a pick up and play fighter but one which offers a great deal of depth and fun to be had both if playing offline or online, if you can tolerate the lag issues. All the usual game modes make their return, so whether you’re interested in going through the story modes, training or just creating your own battle against the AI, the options are there. It’s a whole lot of chaos for a little screen, but it’s the most addictive game I’ve played on my handheld for a little while now.


Super Smash Bros. 3DS

The good

  • Pick up and play controls.
  • Combat is chaotic and heaps of fun.
  • Lots of variety in characters, stages and items.

The bad

  • 3DS’ control scheme means you’ll need to re-learn how to play effectively.
  • Online matches can be laggy.

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About the author

Nicholas Simonovski

Events and Racing Editor at Stevivor.com. Proud RX8 owner, Strange Music fan and Joe Rogan follower. Living life one cheat meal at a time.